Jesse Gutierrez’s love for airplanes started in 1939 when he went to the World’s Fair in Oakland, California and took his first airplane ride. After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, Jesse remembers several of his friends being sent to internment camps. In high school, Jesse excelled in technical subjects, and one of his instructors, Dr. Hess, served as a great mentor and inspiration. Jesse soon took a job as an aircraft mechanic, but in 1951 he was drafted. He was assigned as a mechanic, and later volunteered for airborne training. He joined the 187th Airborne Regiment in Japan during the Korean War. After the war, Jesse returned to his job as an aircraft mechanic, and eventually took a job teaching to share his love for aircraft with future generations.
In this interview, Jesse describes his early aviation experiences, set against the backdrop of WWII. He talks about seeing airplanes and air bases in California, learning to be a mechanic, and his experiences in basic training and at Army aviation mechanic school. Listen for his story from the Korean War about the Bird Dog that “crashed.”